What Makes Exercise Essential to Health?

exercise essential

We hear it frequently especially around new years that exercise is important but why is exercise essential to health? There are many forms of exercise out there and many of them accomplish different things so if we are not training for a marathon, an Olympic lifting competition or something else specific then what type of exercise regime should we be pursuing for our health? There is a lot of noise out there about exercise and it can be very hard to cut through it so this article will do just that –  looking into what form exercise we should pursue to improve health, longevity, avoid injury and improve life satisfaction.

Benefits of Exercise:

The benefits of exercise and can have a profound effect on our short and long term health. Some of the benefits are increased bone density, improved endurance, increased energy, improved mobility, increased strength, lower stress levels, improved body composition, increased connective tissue strength, maintain or increase lean muscle mass and the list goes on. Now our body is an amazing organism and it responds to different forms of stress, like exercising, by adapting and improving to be able to better handle those stressors. Various systems of the body come into play to help this adaptation from hormones to the nervous system. Our body also works the opposite way, it will get rid of adaptations that are no longer necessary. A clear is example is seen with bed ridden patients who muscles and body functions atrophy away. Since there is no stimulus into these muscles the body conserves energy by getting rid of them. Our body will only do what we ask of it so if we do not do the work we will not get the benefits and if we stop for long periods we will start to lose those benefits as well.

Regardless of the type of exercise you are stimulating the body and asking it to do some form of work whether it is lifting heavy objects, holding poses or biking up hills they all stress the muscular system which is important because it helps us to maintain and, depending on the training, increase lean muscle mass. Maintaining lean muscle mass is extremely important for health and well-being for two major reasons, it helps to improve insulin sensitivity and it help to prevent neuroinflammation (brain inflammation) which can lead to depression and degenerative diseases.

Maintaining our insulin sensitivity is of central importance because insulin helps to get blood sugar into our cells, if we lose insulin sensitivity that is where we develop issues like type 2 diabetes, systemic inflammation and weight gain. Having lean muscle mass helps us to keep up our insulin sensitivity.[1] Exercise in of itself has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity as well,[2] therefore the importance of exercise on insulin sensitivity is even more profound.

Lean muscle mass also soaks up kynurenine which is generated from tryptophan an amino acid. Tryptophan can be either metabolized into serotonin (it makes us happy!) if it gets into the brain. But if you are stressed, sick or inflamed then tryptophan gets shuttled into producing kynurenine and that in turn is converted into something called quinolinic acid,[3] which crossed the blood brain barrier and causes neuroinflammation.[4] This neuroinflammation is associated with depression and many other brain disorders.[4] When you exercise, muscle takes up and turns kynurenine into a by-product that cannot be turned into quinolinic acid,[5] therefore preventing depression and the development of diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Now different types of exercise share common benefits but they also have specific strengths in terms of health improvements/benefits so implementing a variety of exercise is important to ensure we reap all of these amazing benefits. We will now talk about some specific forms of exercises and what their main benefits are to us.

Resistance Training:

The most common forms of resistance training are body weight work, using free weights or using machines. Now resistance training is very important because as we age our risk of osteoporosis increases and it is essential to do resistance training like weight lifting to increase bone density.[6] Nutritional factors are also important but using resistance training is very important to deep bone density up especially as we age.

Resistance training also helps to improve strength which is needed for everyday activities like carrying groceries, standing up out of a chair, moving objects, etc. Sometimes we only come to understand how important this strength is only when it is gone. Maybe you have seen your grandparent who struggles to get out of a chair by themselves or up the stairs, this is a prime example of why we need to continue to build strength as we go through our lives. It has also been shown that there is a positive correlation between grip strength and longevity! [7]

Resistance training keeps our bones strong, us strong, maintains and increase lean muscle mass and able to be self sufficient as we age.

Interval Training:

Cardiorespiratory endurance can be measured by our VO2 max which is our ability to assimilate and use oxygen during intense exercise. Having a better cardiorespiratory fitness, is shown to decrease the likelihood of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and other related events. It has also been shown to lower risks of premature death,[8] clearly, we want to have good endurance. Now we can build endurance through either pure endurance training like going for a run or through interval training. Both of these have been shown to increase our VO2 max.[9] Now if you are like me and want to maximize time and find long runs quite boring then interval training is definitely the way to go.

Yoga:

There are many benefits to yoga such as increased body awareness, mindfulness, mobility and isometric strength. Yoga is a fantastic practice for anyone who is looking to improve their overall health and well-being. One of yoga’s strengths is the improvement of mobility. Mobility is extremely important as it helps us to avoid injury and damage to our soft tissues. An example of this is squatting, many of us have lost the ability to sit comfortably in a low squat. As children, we were all able to do this but we lost the capability as we sat more and did less playing. Yoga can help to restore this functionality in our body making it easier for us to pick things up off the floor, move and do everyday activities.

Mobility is also important for many other activities like strength training or trying to add muscle. The more mobility we have the bigger our range of motion can be during exercise and the more benefits we can get out of those exercises (ie. full depth squat vs a quarter squat). Yoga is a great practice to improve mobility as is kinstretch the next modality we are going to talk about.

Kinstretch:

This is an exciting new form of exercise that has been adopted by many major sports teams to help keep their athletes functional and feeling amazing. Kinstretch is all about making you better at everything. It does this by training the nervous system to improve our mobility and strength the ranges we rarely work in. Every movement we do is controlled by the nervous system[10] from talking to squating, therefore the better we can control our body and nervous system the better we can execute movement. Without movement there is no exercise.

If you want to give this a quick try, then sit on the ground with your legs straight out in front of you. Now lean forward as far as you can, now back off just a smidge. From here you’re going to try to lift your legs off the ground. If you are unable to lean back slightly and try it again, keep going until you can lift your legs off the ground. That is a simple example of how kinstretch works, it works at improving our ability to move and control your body.

Since our body adapts to the stimulus we put forward it is clear that as we continue to work with kinstretch we will get better at expressing ourselves in space. There is no preprogrammed movements in our mind that are executed the same every time, if this was the case every squat or pull-up we did would be exactly the same, however, this is certainly not the case. Our body uses the variables present in order to execute the movement as efficiently and best at possible and those variables are always changing (ie. hip mobility, whats on our feet, etc.). With kinstretch we are widening our scope of the possible by implementing more possibilities into our movement so this can translate to everything in life.

Conclusion:

As you can see there are many benefits to exercise and some of the examples we have discussed above have certain strengths to them over other so implementing a mix would be the best way to go about training for vitality. Now there are many more forms of fitness then the ones outlined above but these are some of my favourites and the ones I’ve found to be extremely effective at improving health and that is why all of these are integrated into the programs at Cocoon Health & Fitness. Now if your goals is health and well-being then keep a varied training schedule up and look at your weaknesses that is usually what we tend to ignore or avoid. By attacking those weaknesses do we make massive strides forward.

Sources:

  1. Yaeko Fukushima, et al. Importance of Lean Muscle Maintenance to Improve Insulin Resistance by Body Weight Reduction in Female Patients with Obesity. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4853222/
  2. John J. Dube, et al. Exercise Dose and Insulin Sensitivity Relevance for Diabetes Prevention. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3328621/
  3. Kuniaki Saito, et al. A Mechanism for Increased Quinolinic Acid Formation Following Acute Systemic Immune Stimulation. http://www.jbc.org/content/268/21/15496.full.pdf
  4. Flavio Moroni. Tryptophan metabolism and brain function: focus on kynurenine and other indole metabolites. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S001429999900196X
  5. Leandro Z Agudelo, et al. Skeletal Muscle PCG-1α1 Modulated Kynurenine Metabolism and Mediates Resilience to Stress-Induced Depression. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0092867414010496
  6. Lanye, JE and Nelson, ME. The effects of progressive resistance training on bone density: a review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9927006
  7. Richard W Bohannan. Dynamometer measurements of hand-grip strength predict multiple outcomes. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.2466/pms.2001.93.2.323
  8. Kodama S, et al. Cardiorespiratory fitness as a quantitative predictor of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular events in healthy men and women: a meta-analysis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19454641
  9. Zoran Milanovic, et al. Effectiveness of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIT) and Continous Endurance Training for VO2max improvements: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Controlled Trails. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs40279-015-0365-0\
  10. Mel Siff and Yuri Verkhoshansky. Supertraining.